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August 14, 2013

Hornets’ D has holes — but there’s plenty of seniors to help fill them

Hilldale has seven returning starters on defense.

But those four losses were significant.

Still, less than a week into fall drills, Hilldale coach Chad Kirkhart sees hard work and enthusiasm from a mature unitfilling those voids sooner than later.

“It’s something we’d like to have a little more of, the experience,” the head coach said. “But you’re always going to have some turnover and you have to adjust. What I like most from what I’ve seen so far is a group of guys who are coachable and wanting to learn and leadership out there with the guys who have played.”

The big hits came at linebacker and in the secondary.

Jamaul Cullom and Josh Giem graduated, leaving two holes at linebacker. Jake Adams and newcomer Hunter Olson take over at the inside spots while Hunter Woods and Seth Reheard go to the outside. Reheard is moving from weak side to the strong side spot Cullom had. Woods got some time at one inside spot when Adams went out last year with a torn ACL. Giem, the team’s top tackler, had the other.

They’ll all have their hands full, but none perhaps more than Reheard. Cullom from that spot was a dual threat. He led the team in interceptions with seven and was second in tackles, 17 of those for losses.  Between Cullom and Giem, that’s 287 solos or assisted tackles.

 “Seth was a real hard worker in the weight room this summer. He probably put on 10 pounds. Both those things will help him to take on more blocks,” Hornets defensive coordinator Ryan Keenum said. “He’s a good athlete with good speed but more than anything he plays hard enough to make up for any mistakes he makes by way of his effort.”

The smallish Justin Sanders surprised some observers with his play at nose guard. The 6-foot, 200-pound senior led the team in sacks with five and was third in tackles in 2012. He moves to a defensive end spot this year with Tyler Gober (5-10, 245) plugging Sanders’ old spot. At the other end is returning starter C.J. Hunnicutt.

“Justin handled himself well there but he wasn’t the ideal size for the nose,” Keenom said. “End is more natural for his  body type and it will allow him to make more plays in the passing game as far as rushing the quarterback in single coverages.

“Gober on the other hand, being one of if not our strongest kid, is built to handle those double-team blocks. He’ll draw plenty of those and he’s one of our younger guys, but he’ll do a good job with them.”

Bradley Campbell, who had five interceptions in 2012, is back at one corner with Dylan Duncan and Matt Bargsten at the safety spots. Bargsten had two picks in spot duty a year ago when Richard Mabery, who with Miles Jackson are the graduation losses back there, went down with an MCL injury.

It’s still unsettled at the other corner where Kaden Weaver and Dakota Holmes battling. The 5-10, 140 Holmes, entering his senior year, hasn’t played football since junior high.

“That spot is critical because with Bradley on the other side you know offenses will attack whoever is on the opposite side,” Keenom said. “Big mistakes there kind of glare more than those up front that may only be a 5-yard loss. Whoever emerges there will have some huge responsibility.”

It’s got to be a group with a sense of urgency. All but Gober and Bargsten are in their final season as Hornets.

That’s a good thing, said Kirkhart – obviously not thinking about adjusting to all that turnover next year.

“If someone’s not hooking up, someone’s telling them, and you got to have that kind of senior leadership in order to get where we want to be,” Kirkhart said.

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